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De Mistura Hopes Syria Talks Resume in July | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Reuters, Lucas Jackson

New York-United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Tuesday he hoped that stalled Syrian peace talks would resume in July, but only if the security and humanitarian situation on the ground showed clear improvement.

“The window of opportunity is coming quickly to a close unless we maintain alive the cessation of hostilities, we increase humanitarian aid and we come to some common understanding of a political transition,” de Mistura told the General Assembly via video link from Geneva.

“Then we can have, hopefully in July, inter-Syrian talks that are not about principles but about concrete steps to a political transition,” he said.

“I will consider that in July but not yet, not now because it is premature in view of the current discussions and current situation.”

According to AFP, Mistura said that competing views on how a transition could occur were impeding the peace process, with the Syrian regime, the opposition, the United States and Russia all at odds — particularly over Bashar al-Assad’s future role, a main stumbling block in the talks.

“Political talks cannot proceed,” he said, “while hostilities are escalating and civilians are starving.”

Though some besieged communities have received aid shipments recently, the U.N. is far from having unobstructed, safe access to Syria’s civilian population, de Mistura added.

Since the beginning of the year U.N. agencies have been able to send land convoys delivering life-saving supplies to 16 of the 18 U.N.-identified areas under siege, but those same deliveries are often accompanied by an uptick in violence.

De Mistura also noted a “worrisome escalation of fighting” between Assad’s forces and opposition fighters in areas like Aleppo and suburbs of Damascus.

Also addressing the meeting, Head of U.N. Humanitarian Operations Stephen O’Brien urged member states to step up aid contributions.

He admonished the Syrian government for blocking aid convoys and besieging its own population.

“The barbaric use of medieval siege tactics is morally reprehensible and has no place in the 21st century,” O’Brien said.

The U.N. official accused the regime of removing U.N. convoys delivering hundreds of thousands of essential drugs and medical equipment.

“Medicine and other relief must not be turned into a cynical political bargaining chip,” he said.

For his part, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said that the crisis in Syria is rooted in human rights violations, with parties to the conflict blatantly disregarding such rights by launching indiscriminate attacks, using disproportionate force, and destroying protected sites and medical units.

“This is the sixth year of horror for Syrians. So many have suffered torture, destruction and death, their story is no longer ‘news’. It may be difficult to grasp the effect of millions of rights violations in the Syrian conflict – but it is plain to see they must be stopped,” he said.